Bryant Retreat ‘for women here too’, trust stresses

The Bryant Retreat For Women last weekend threw open its doors to publicly thank the Raglan community for its ongoing support of the harbourside facility – and to dispel the notion the unique service it offers is only for women from out of town.

“This misconception … has somehow become part of popular mythology,” DV Bryant Trust chief executive officer Lindsay Cumberpatch said in welcoming more than 20 locals representing the wider community to afternoon tea last Saturday.

“The retreat is a healing home for women here in Whaingaroa too.”

The facility caters year-round for up to six women at a time from the Waikato and King Country. They stay for 11 days and each has their own room, ensuring “there is always company when you need it and solitude when you want time out”.

All come courtesy of referrals from their GPs and their stays are fully funded by the Hamilton-based trust, which was set up in 1960.

The retreat’s purpose is to nurture women needing some TLC and time out from stressful situations in overly busy lives.

“It’s not a health facility,” Lindsay pointed out. “It’s a home, a place for our guests.”

A short DVD on the retreat’s beginnings back in 1964 – when the expansive red brick house on the corner of Cliff and James Streets was purpose-built – showed how Waikato farmer and philanthropist Daniel (Dan) Vickery Bryant had set the scene a decade before when he arranged for women suffering from stress to stay at a family bach further along Cliff St.

Earlier, from the 1930s, “tired mothers” were able to stay during the winter months at the then Bryant Convalescent Home for Children – now Camp Raglan on Wainui Rd overlooking Ngarunui Beach.

But it was Dan’s son Cecil who oversaw, on behalf of the DV Bryant Trust, the building and landscaping of the current retreat which still nurtures women 53 years on.

There are always three family members included on the board of 12 trustees that runs the philanthropic organisation, which is now into its fourth generation.

Andy Bryant, a third generation family member at last Saturday’s function, fondly remembered his father Cecil getting rocks from the beach for the Bryant Retreat garden and how he used to dine once a week with the guests.  Other times he’d take them out on the harbour in a boat.

Trustee and retreat committee chair John Graham was also on hand to field questions on the running of the facility.

Retreat manager Robyn Riddle, who’s been in the job 18 months now, said it was an honour to be part of the trust’s vision in Raglan.

“Women who come and stay spend a lot of time telling us how wonderful the people here are,” she added, referring to the community that supports her and six local staff members working to keep things ticking over for their guests.

Community representatives at the afternoon tea included not only close neighbours who’ve had a long association with the retreat but also representatives from the likes of the Lions Op Shop, the Light Exercise Group, the Yoga Loft and the museum.

“We encourage guests to go out, explore and enjoy our community,” Robyn explained. There was no structured programme as such, she added, and certainly no counselling.

The retreat was all about rest and relaxation.

Edith Symes